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Fun Camp Interlude!

Each year, at the beginning of June, I head to the wilds of the Ozarks for a week to help staff Camp Wemo–a week-long camp for middle–high school youth in the diocese.  I am a cabin counselor, I help run games, and activities, I plan and lead liturgies, I explain why we can’t panic at the sight of ALL bugs, only the really hairy ones, and generally attempt to keep the lives of 6-8 middle school girls on track for a week.  It’s a trip.

This year, our theme was Proclaiming the Good News to All Creation.  Because the Presiding Bishop had come to the diocese earlier in May, we decided to springboard off that theme, and continue the idea of evangelism all year.  So on the day that I had to give a 5 minute clergy talk, I decided to talk about what good news was, and what our experience of the gospel was.

Here’s what I said.  (More or less.  I didn’t have this in front of me, and I was standing outside talking off the top of my head.)

What is Good News?

 

We promise at our baptism to share by word and example, the Good News of God in Christ.

 

We also promise to persevere in resisting evil. (Hold these two ideas in your mind.)

 

What is this Good News, and are there times when the gospel is heard in ways that aren’t good?

Now think about it–can I say some things that aren’t good news to you right now?  What if I come over here to Amanda (walks over to Amanda, counselor) and tell her that I have some great news for her!  News that will change her life, news that will make every day of her life worth living!  Isn’t that great, Amanda?!

Amanda says yes.

Amanda, I need to tell you, that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ really hates your shoes, and you need to give them to me immediately.  THIS IS THE GOOD NEWS I HAVE BEEN SENT TO PREACH.

Now, Amanda, does this seem like good news to you?

Amanda, correctly, says that no, this does not seem like good news at all.  She likes her shoes.  

See, that’s the thing.  Sometimes, I think we can preach the gospel in ways that people don’t hear as good news.

I grew up in Virginia, I think most of you know that. My family has lived there for generations. We had a mill in Spotsylvania, outside of DC. And we owned slaves.  We did. Because it was the south, and that was how you made money. And I know, from hearing my grandparents’ stories, that they and other owners made their slaves go to church and be baptized and they preached to those slaves. And they read to them those parts of the Bible where it talks about submitting to authority. And how God placed leaders in power, so you should see them as God appointed. And turn the other cheek meant suffering without complaint, and being meek, silent and obedient.

 

And I know, if I were a slave, and if my life, my family’s life, was not mine that none of that would sound like good news.  How is it good news if God wants you to suffer like that?!

 

But I also know that the slaves didn’t listen for long. They read the Bible, oh they did. But they read the parts where Paul said “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.”  They learned about Jesus, but they figured out that Jesus didn’t come to make them more submissive, but they read that part in Luke where Jesus preached in his hometown synagogue and told the people that he had come to set the captives free and preach Good News to the poor. And they knew that Jesus did not want them to suffer as they were. They heard the Good News.

IN SPITE of what my ancestors were telling them.

 

They would sing songs to God at night about a sweet chariot coming to take them home, and my ancestors would say “oh how lovely, they have such faith in a heaven!” But little did they know it was a code. they were singing their way to freedom in Canada. Because Jesus brought Good News.

 

I tell this story, because there is still today a danger that we mistake bad news for good. That when we preach about God, we get turned around and confused, and say things that are hardly good for anyone to hear. Because there are people out there trying to sell a lot of bad news. There are people and there always have been, trying to promote a lot of meanness, hatred, division. Telling us that if we just learn to fear those who are different from us, everything will be better, and in fact/-that’s what Jesus wants. More fear. More anger. More violence. That those who are poor or sick or hurting deserve it and are on their own.  That there are people out there that God doesn’t love.  Can you imagine?! 

 

But that is not Good News. We know that. And to quote Michael Curry–if it’s not good news, it’s not of God.

Jesus came and brought us Good News. Jesus came and asked us to care for one another. He asked us to heal the sick, shelter the weak, knock down walls, and feed the hungry. He demanded that we love one another, and he told us that perfect love casts out fear. And that with him we wouldn’t even need to be afraid any more if we just learned to love each other.

That is the good news. That is the story we have to tell. That is what the world needs to hear. The amazing news that God loves us so much he asks us to love each other and LOOK WE ARE DOING IT.

So, I know it’s hard. I know we mess it up. But never be afraid to tell the good news.  Because that is what the world needs to hear.  And that is what we need to hear.

 

Ascend already

Welcome to the now-Annual Sermon Dump!  That lovely time of year when Megan reads back through her Google Drive and belatedly posts the sermons she gave over the summer, but did not post to her blog because she was otherwise at camp/running Missionpalooza/in the Middle East/un-flooding the church/something else.

You’d think that after 9 years of this, I would have figured out that summer is the reverse of a restful time of year for me, but it never fails–each year, I have great hopes that I will spend the warmer months sunning myself on a nearby patio with a drink in my hand.  Instead, I find myself screeching into September again, with a chill in the air, sleep deprivation in my mind, and again, no sermons on the blog.  It’s like a reverse miracle!  🙂

So we begin way back in May (!) with the Ascension.  Before you can say it, I KNOW THE ASCENSION IS NOT A MOVABLE FEAST.  DON’T @ ME.  However, our local practice is to recognize it in part on the Sunday, as well as on the actual day.  And I don’t plan on dying in that particular ditch.

I give you: Ascension!

 

Rev. Megan L. Castellan

May 28, 2017

Easter 7/post Ascension

Acts 1

 

The Ascension is one of the quirkiest biblical stories to appear in art.  Whereas with the Annunciation you usually get the same sorts of pictures–Mary, with an angel, and beatific light, the Nativity, Mary, Joseph, baby, animals.  With the Ascension, you just get a lot of really odd stuff.  

Salvador Dali has a painting of just the soles of Jesus’ feet.  That’s it.  Just the bottom of his feet in the center of a halo.  And lest you think that this is just Dali being a weirdo, Jesus’ feet is a prominent theme in Ascension paintings from the Renaissance, too.  There’s a popular German painting from the 16th century with Jesus’ feet at calves at the top, and a herd of confused disciples down below.  This was popular!  It was copied on to altar frontals and the like!  Other depictions have Jesus being hoisted up to heaven by a couple of burly angels.  Or soaring up with his arms upraised, like superman.  And also, the place where Christians think the Ascension happened, in Jerusalem, which is now a mosque because Muslims recognize the ascension too–has a set of footprints in a stone at the center.  Presumably left as Jesus lept from the earth.

In terms of sheer oddity, the ascension takes the cake, I think, just because it’s confusing on it’s face.  The resurrection is miraculous, but in a straightforward way.  Jesus was dead; now he’s not.  The ascension, however–what even?  Jesus basically becomes the Schrodinger’s cat of saviors. Is he here or not?  Well, yes! He is alive, we know that, and with us, yet not because we no longer see him, and it’s not the same as it was.  Except he’s still here.  No wonder everyone paints just the feet.  The feet are all we can get a hold of.

It’s also worth noting that the timing of the ascension is also not great.  The disciples are still reeling from the whole “Jesus was just crucified” thing, and they’re hiding in their rooms.  What they expect will happen is that Jesus, now resurrected, will use this new life of his to overthrow Rome, with its oppressive empire and injustice, reestablish a kingdom for Israel, and make everything okay again.  They have some high hopes.

As per usual, the disciples are wrong.  Poor little buddies.  Jesus informs them that it isn’t for them to know the times or the seasons the Lord has set.  So there goes that plan.

Instead, he leaves them.  Just whoosh–up into the sky.

The poor disciples are left standing there, staring at where he just was until some angels appear and ask them what their deal is.  “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”

First off, that’s a misnomer.  We know from the next few verses that there were definitely women there too, so come on, angels.  Secondly, they were standing there because they were confused and a bit lost.  They had a plan, they had a leader that they depended on, and now…..now they were on their own.  Now they felt a bit lost and abandoned.

What were they supposed to do now that they were left to their own devices?

This is the first real test for the disciples in a way.  Up until now, they haven’t had to do a whole lot by themselves.  Now they’re on their own, and they have to decide what to do.

The Ascension marks the passing of the torch from Jesus to the disciples.  More even than the crucifixion–this is when the disciples take over the ministry of Jesus.  Now that Jesus has ascended to be with God, it is on the disciples to carry on Jesus’ ministry of teaching, preaching, and manifesting the kingdom.  

That’s a tall order for anyone, particularly for this bunch.  Particularly for the times in which they live.  It’s a hostile world out there.  The government doesn’t like them.  Their families don’t like them.  Jesus was, after all, just killed because he was disliked so very much.  So this is a lot.  The disciples aren’t superheroes–they are ordinary people, with ordinary doubts, fears, and failings.  

So when Jesus lifts off, it panics them.  The leader they depended on is gone.

But the ascension also gives the disciples a gift.  Because Jesus has left them, Jesus can be with them.  (Again, it’s like Schrodinger’s Cat.) But think of it this way–instead of being physically present eating breakfast beside Peter, now Jesus is just as present with Andrew while he’s preaching in Jerusalem, as he is present with James in Galilee.  Now, instead of being temporally or spatially bound, Jesus is everywhere.  Jesus is in all times.  

The ascension frees Christ to be present with all the apostles as they go to figure out what their mission is, and how they’re going to do it.  And it frees Christ to be with us, as we go out to figure out the same thing.  As the ascension marks the day when Christ left the disciples, it also marks when he became real to them in a new way, and propelled them to figure out how to be the church in a new way.

So each time Fr. Stan and I stand here and tell you to go out and be the body of Christ, (which is basically our St. Paul’s motto)–I know it can feel overwhelming.  There’s so much to do–so much in the world that needs addressing,  how on earth do we start?  So we end up like the disciples, dazed and confused, and staring up at the sky, hoping for some disappearing feet to guide us.

But Christ is as present with us today as he was with them that day on the mountain. Christ may not be physically present when we gather, but Christ is present with us each time we receive the Eucharist, each time we greet a loved one, each time we recognize the image of God in someone suffering.  

Christ is all around us, present just as powerfully.  We don’t need to stand staring at those disappearing feet.  We can feel emboldened to pick a task and go out into the world to live the good news.

Again? Again.

I took a class in seminary called ‘Evil, Suffering, and the Liturgy’.  It consisted of heady discussions of different theological ideas about why evil occurred in the world, and religious concepts of suffering, and very practical case studies about how to construct different liturgies around tragic events: suicides, miscarriages, civil emergencies, etc.

It turned out to be the most practical class I ever took.

The massacre at Virginia Tech happened while I was in that class.  I had friends attending Tech at the time, and I had just found out that they were all ok.  When I walked into the classroom, Professor Farwell said, “I know today is hard, and I am sorry to do this to you.  But our assignment today is to figure out your response were you the rector of the parish in Blacksburg.  Because this will be your job.”

What I didn’t figure on is that this would be my job as often as it has been.  It doesn’t get easier; I think it gets harder.

I was beginning a week at camp when the news of Orlando broke.  I said something about it in my homily with the camp staff, and talked it through with shaken and scared youth during the week.  I spent a lot of time on the phone trying to pull together a city-wide vigil at the cathedral.  I did those good church things you’re supposed to do.  But in the end, I am left wondering how many weeks until I have to do this all over again.

Rev. Megan L. Castellan

June 19, 2016

Ordinary Time, Proper 7

1 Kings 19: 1-4 (5-7)8-15a

 

Cast your minds back–way back several weeks ago. I know lots has happened, but see if you can recall.  Remember last time I talked to you and Elijah was calling down fire from the sky in a contest against the prophets of Baal?  Oh good times.  How young and innocent we all were.

 

If you missed that Sunday, here’s the fun recap:  Elijah is mad because the people of Israel have again gotten confused (they have the attention span of Dory). And they have started worshipping other gods.  They are encouraged in this by the new queen, Jezebel, who is not an Israelite, and doesn’t worship YHWH, but does worship Baal.  

So, Elijah thinks up a neat contest.  He challenges the prophets of Baal to a fight–whoever’s god sends down enough fire to consume a sacrifice wins.  The priests of Baal try hard, but to no avail.  (They are not helped by Elijah, who taunts them sarcastically the whole time, in some masterful biblical snark.)  Then, Elijah steps up.  He shows off by dousing his offering in water, and THEN calling down fire.  

Contest won.  

And then, he goes even further, and kills all the rival priests, to really make his point.  Elijah is a bit scary.

 

So that’s where our story picks up–Elijah has just gone all Rambo on some Canaanite priests.  And Jezebel is understandably upset.  So Elijah panics and flees from Mt Carmel (which is up in the north of Galilee) all the way to the southern tip of the Negev desert.  

Unless you have a solid grasp of Israelite geography, it’s hard to understand what he’s doing, but essentially, he’s running away as far as he can absolutely get.  He heads to the ends of the earth, because his actions are catching up with him.  

 

And once he reaches the desert, he holes up in a cave, and pitches a fit.  I HAVE BEEN SO GOOD AND DONE SO WELL, BUT NO ONE LOVES ME.  LET ME ALONE SO THAT I MAY DIE.  he says.  Elijah is not pleased that his stunt with the Canaanite priests did not work out the way he wanted.  I don’t know what he thought was going to happen–a parade, a festival in his honor, a rededicated people to the service of the Lord, but evidently it did not include exile and an angry queen.  Elijah is annoyed. (Btw, there is no whinier group of people in all creation than either the prophets, or the people of Israel.  It’s amazing.)  So he sits in a cave, in the desert, and pouts.  And waits for God to either kill him or speak to him.  

 

And God does speak–but not in the right way.  Or not in the way Elijah wants.

 

Because first there’s a mighty rushing wind, that splits rocks, and breaks the face of the mountain.  But that’s not God.  Then there’s an enormous fire, that wrecks havoc and destruction across the landscape.  But God’s not there either.  And there’s an earthquake, that shakes the ground, and shatters boulders.  But that’s not God either.

 

Finally, there’s the sound of sheer silence.  

 

That’s where God shows up.

 

It’s tempting to read this as “God likes the quiet! Meditation is good!” And that’s perfectly fine. Representing God as a still, small voice is fine.  That inner voice, we do need to listen to that.

 

But location, as any real estate agent will tell you–is everything. And Elijah is searching for divine reassurance after he’s committed a pretty horrific act of violence. And quite frankly, on this day, on this week, if this is just a story about how God likes quiet walks, and has no comment over acts of murderous rage–we have a big problem.

 

Because what Elijah did was horrible.  The slaughter of the Canaanite priests is one of the more gruesome stories in scripture.  Elijah might be a prophet of God, but I don’t care who you are, killing a whole bunch of people is not okay. It’s just not, regardless of Elijah’s bravado.

 

And so watch closely. The violence of nature mirrors the violence that Elijah has been enacting.  The wind, the earthquake, the fire. They destroy creation like Elijah has been doing. And yet, despite what Elijah has been saying, God isn’t present in this violence. God isn’t glorified in destruction.

 

God shows up in the peace.  God shows up in no act of power, but a total absence of it.  That is where God shows up.

 

It’s a lesson Elijah struggles with all his life–this is the last we see of him, really.  The next thing he does is go off to name his successor. But lest we be too hard on Elijah, it’s also a lesson we all struggle with.  

 

The thought that God supports violence, that God is praised when we hate others is pernicious untruth that has persisted through the millennia.  It’s endemic to all of humanity.  God is powerful, therefore God must be glorified when we use our power over others–the story runs.  And we are tempted into believing that the more power we accumulate, through violence, through weapons, through weaponized hate, then the more like an all-powerful god we will become.

 

We don’t have Baal to tempt us in 2016.  What we have is hatred and violence.  

 

And this week, in the massacre in Orlando, we see again where these false gods lead.  Not to a just and secure world, but to heartache and pain.  Again and again and again.  Because while hatred and violence might promise relief from the fear that plagues us–they don’t.  And we just end up here again.

 

The hope that we have is that God is not found through violence.  Indeed, God came among us and became so powerless that Christ suffered a violent death himself.  Because the heart of God is peace.  The will of God is love.  And to prove that point better than anything else, Christ embraced the suffering endemic to our world.  

 

So what we learn again this week is that God is with us when we suffer.  When we are in pain, when we grieve, God suffers too.   When we suffer loss, God weeps as well–urging us to choose a better way.  And one day, one day, maybe we will.  

Amen.

 

Fear Itself

I’m not a fan of gender essentialism.  (Shock!) Whether it’s the toy aisle at Target or pronouncing salad to be ‘lady food’ (which, by the way, is still evidently an oft-told folktale in the Diocese of Southern Virginia.)   People are complex and different, and quite frankly, I have never found gender to be a very good predictor of much.

However, this doesn’t imply that denying women a voice in discussions doesn’t lead to certain myopias.  It’s not that letting one woman speak will give you a perspective on all women, everywhere.  (No, Mel Gibson–that’s not a thing.)  But it enlarges the discussion in important ways, due to the systemic ways women are treated in society.

All this is to say–the theological argument that pride is the original sin seems skewed to me.  That’s the argument of someone who has always been encouraged, either explicitly or implicitly, by the world to think well of themselves–and for groups who are told by the world that they are worthless, to argue against pride in any form becomes dangerous.

Here is where I politely remind you that theology always has real-world consequences, and we need to be conscious of them–lest the Good News of freedom we preach turn to oppression.

To that end….

Rev. Megan L. Castellan

March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday, Year C

Luke 23: 1-49

 

Theologians like to argue over weird stuff.  I have friends on Facebook who are full-time theologians, and they get into knock-down, drag out fights over atonement theories, about which old-time theologian was the best, about whether predestination is a thing.  
And they argue over what original sin is.  

Because they’re professional theologians, they are not content with just arguing whether original sin exists, or how it continues on–no, they must try to figure out which sin it is!  Now, most of Western Christianity has maintained that original sin is pride.  Augustine on forward thought that it was the pride of humans that caused the first Fall, back in the garden of Eden.  When Eve wanted to be like God, knowing Good and Evil, and she ate the apple–that was the problem.  Pride, and overzealous ambition.  And so pride trips us up ever since.

 

I am unconvinced.  While I think pride is a bad thing, and surely responsible for a lot of the problems in the world, I don’t think overzealous pride is a universal failing.  (And, honestly, this is one of those issues that crop up when only men are allowed to be theologians for so long.)

 

If you look around the world today, the cancer that seems to be infecting the world isn’t pride, as much as it is fear.  

 

It’s everywhere–Fear of immigrants, fear of refugees, fear of Muslims, fear of crime, fear of those people stealing our jobs, fear of not having enough, fear of those kids not pulling their weight, fear of…you name it–we’ve found a way to be afraid of it.  It’s fear.

 

This creeping insecurity surrounds us–and deludes us into turning our back on our relationship with God, and with each other.  This sort of paranoia convinces us that nothing can be trusted, that everything could be a danger, and that safety has to be our highest goal–instead of God.  

 

The story of the Passion is a series of fearful people, one after another.  

 

The Temple priests and leaders are scared–Jesus has been teaching and riling up the people for a while now.  The Temple hierarchy gets a certain (small) amount of power under Rome, so long as they keep their people in line.  Now, it looks like another charismatic preacher from Galilee is on the horizon, and about to trigger another revolution–one which will have a high body count among their people, and lead to their loss of power. So they move to stop Jesus, before any of that happens.  (FWIW–it doesn’t work.  A revolt, started by yet another charismatic Galilean figure starts 30 years later, and Jerusalem still burns.)

 

The Temple leaders hand him over to Pilate, arguing that Jesus is a threat to Rome, Jerusalem, and all of them!  They’re so afraid, they want Pilate to join them in their fear.    

 

And Pilate, he was afraid.  The Roman regime was threatened.  Every Passover pilgrims rushed the city to recall the LAST time God saved them from foreign oppressors.  The city was already on edge.  

 

And Pilate’s claim to fame was being ruthless with opposition.  His job was to keep the peace in Dodge however brutal he had to be.  And he so badly doesn’t want to make a decision, he passes the baton off to Herod.

 

And Herod–keeps power through pacifying Rome.  So he, too, doesn’t want to do anything–either to annoy Rome or his Jewish subjects.

 

Back to Pilate.  Who tries to get out of a decision, but to no avail.   Finally lets fear of crowd, of failure, of larger empire trump what he knows, and gives in.  (He’s not a hero here.)

 

And that’s not all–the disciples run away too.  

 

So a series of fearful people lead us to Golgatha under the blazing noonday sun on a hill outside the city, with crosses lining the horizon.

 

Fear is what separates us from the love of God.  Fear tells us we don’t have enough, we cannot share.  Fear tells us the Other is a threat.  That they are to be hated.  Fear tells us that to keep what we have we have to hoard and fight and scrimp and hide. That we aren’t enough, that all we have is ourselves.

Fear lies.  

 

Scripture tells us perfect love casts out fear.  And in this week, we see Love itself enter into the worst of our fears, and assure us that we aren’t alone.  We aren’t abandoned.  That there is nothing we fear that Christ cannot bear with us.  That in the love of Christ, none of our fears can truly separate us from the love of God.  

 

That in the end, God–Love itself, is stronger than Fear, stronger than Death, and on Easter morning, destroys the last of what there is to fear.  All we have to do is hold on til then.

 

Amen.

 

AJ Levine is my Shoe (and everything else) Heroine

I attended a preaching conference once with Amy-Jill Levine.  If you don’t know who she is, then I have the delightful task of introducing her to you.

She is a renowned New Testament scholar and author and also Jewish.  And teaches at Vanderbilt.  (Also–she has fabulous shoes.  Basically, she’s who I want to be when I grow up.)  That may sound weird to you, but if you’ve read anything she’s written, then you’ll see that she brings enormous value to the discussion of the Gospel texts.

She spoke to us about the pitfalls of preaching during Holy Week, and the many ways Christian preachers walk right into anti-semitism, mostly without realizing it.  Her lecture was so good, and so practical, that I refer to those notes every single year.

The Holy Week texts are loaded, and not just with religious angst.  They are also loaded because it was from these Passion narratives that generations of hatred sprang–and if we ignore that, then we give it tacit license to continue.  Unless we call out the history of the texts, unless we name the problems in them, then we allow this mess to continue.

It’s a tightrope.  Here’s my attempt from Maundy Thursday.

 

Rev. Megan L. Castellan

March 24, 2016

Maundy Thursday, Year C

 

There’s a common trope in Bible study–the God of the Old testament vs the God of Jesus.  The God in the Old Testament is violent, angry, and legalistic–always wanting sacrifice!  The God of Jesus is loving, inclusive and all about grace.  No violence, no sacrificing to be found.

There are numerous problems with this–aside from the fact that it’s way too simplistic.  (Protip: anytime anyone attempts to summarize something as complex as the Bible in the space of a tweet, ignore them.  They’re probably missing something.)  

This view, as well meaning as it is–because who doesn’t want to emphasize love and grace?, sets up the idea that Jewish people, since they follow that Old Testament God, are also violent, angry and legalistic…when all you have to do is think about this for a second to realize that this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.   It also skips huge parts of the canon (if Jesus’ God is really all that loving and non-confrontational, what on earth is happening in Revelations, and where did the Left Behind series come from?)  And Marcion would be a big fan (yeah–Google it later.)  

So it’s a problem. And we need to be careful–especially at this time of year, because well-worn ideas like the OT God vs the NT God are often so familiar they creep in without our realizing it.  But Jesus’ God–the God he knew, loved, and preached, WAS the God of the Old Testament.  

God is God all the time.  God doesn’t change.  And God demands a lot, as it turns out.

The reading from Exodus sounds like that imaginary OT God talking.  Take a lamb, one without blemish, and eat it roasted.  Leave none of it for tomorrow–eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs.  Eat with your staff in your hand, your loins girded, your sandals on your feet…on and on.  For tonight I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt–both human beings and animals.  This is the passover of the Lord.

It’s pretty brutal.  We aren’t used to much talk about sacrificing sheep, or smearing blood over things.  It’s ominous sounding–the vision of a last meal, eaten in darkness, as the Israelites secretly prepare to flee their slavery.   And the talk of the death of the first born is worse.  It just is.

So it’s tempting to hear Jesus’ talk about foot washing, about loving one another as a reprieve.  Oh hey!  No one’s killing cute baby animals!  All we have to do is be nice. Totally manageable.

Then we try it.

And people are sort of awful.  I mean, not all the time.  But a shockingly high amount of the time–people are hard to love.  

People can be different, they can be scary.  They can do things that challenge us. Sometimes we see them making bad decisions.   Sometimes they’re annoying or infuriating, or just hard to understand.  And sometimes they downright hurt us.–and so it feels  easier to dislike a lot of them, or hate them.  Or just ignore them altogether.  Because the truth is–people are just hard to love sometimes.  

The challenging thing about Jesus is, however, that Jesus doesn’t let us off that easily.  On the night before he died, Jesus told his followers to love one another as he loved them.  We have to love one another.  

The simplest, most impossible thing to do.

And being Jesus, he went farther than that–he demonstrated what that meant  He gave us bread and wine, and declared it to be his very self.  Here is my very body, he told his friends–given for you.  Want to know what love looks like?  This is it.  Do this in remembrance of me.

In the Eucharist, Jesus gives us his very self.  His body, his blood.  In bits of the most ordinary stuff imaginable.  So that we could have a tangible expression of Divine Love in this material ordinary things.  And so that we could learn to go and do likewise.  

When seen like that, really, that thing with the Exodus doesn’t seem that extreme.  All they had to do was sacrifice a sheep once a year.  Make a meal, and move on.  We are called upon to sacrifice our selves.  To give all we are and have to the healing of world.  Our resources, our skills, everything we have.  So that the world can have a glimpse of divine love in us.  

We are called to be the Eucharist for the world, gathered, blessed and given to the world around us.  We are called to pour ourselves out like wine for the life and wellbeing of the world.  The way the sheep made the people of Israel free–we are called to help make others free.  

And we are assured in Christ’s resurrection that as we do all this, we will be renewed in Christ’s life and love.  

Amen.